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At The Parrot Sanctuary

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Poem Activity

Have fun with the poem by trying this...

This poem would work if you look at it along with ‘At The Zoo’ by William Makepeace Thackeray, but this is a much more serious and sadder take on looking at captured animals/ birds. What lines or phrases suggest the parrots are sad in captivity? How might you say those out loud to show the sadness? There are 10 lines before ‘and then the dead begin to speak’ and 10 after, so this is real turning point in the poem. How might you say that line to prepare the listener to focus on what comes next? Softly and slowly? Strong and direct? The second half mentions different sounds. Think about how you might wind down to the silence at the end of the poem, getting a little quieter with every line.

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our presence disturbs their sleep:
heads bob and weave,
beaks biting the wire.

Some have plucked the feathers
from their tails,
their breasts,
as if trying to find out love.

Bright eyes stare out
from circles of wizened skin,
fix us,

and then the dead begin to speak:

a chorus of greetings and goodbyes,
nicknames, profanities,
the ghost of a woman’s laugh.

No one can live long
with this ventriloquy,
voices thrown from the dark.

Not us,
who leave them quickly to their cages,
to the silence that only comes
when we are gone.

At The Parrot Sanctuary

by Esther Morgan